Creating Moments of Joy
Feb 26, 2021 4:05:10 PM
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
Yesterday one of my clients asked, “how do I stay motivated and upbeat during such a dark time?” The way I coach others to answer this question for themselves is to ask:
- Tell me your favorite memories, hobbies, etc.
- What is the first thing you will do once things open back-up?
- What do you miss most?
- How can you replicate or have a piece of that now?
These questions evoke thoughts and feelings about what matters most. Research would say that even thinking about or imagining moments of joy can give us a mood boost. There may also be other ways to experience what we love, although modified, until there is more flexibility and freedom to pursue what brings enjoyment. On a personal level, I too have had to work at remaining positive this past year. Some of those practices are mindfulness, long walks, exercise, Netflix binging, reading positive affirmations, drinking wine, gratitude journaling, risking a visit with friends or family, and so on. But frankly, I am over it! There are days I don’t think I can handle another minute of the same ol’ thing. It feels way past time for the dark days to diminish and for the sun to come out again! And yet I woke up this morning, like the movie Ground Hogs Day, with the realization, here we go again.
What do we do to remain joyful when the hard times seem to go on and on? That feels like the question everyone is asking. This prompted me to dig in and learn more about happiness and joy, and so I researched definitions, read articles, and poured over the wisdom from, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. My search has provided me with a measure of peace and an opinion on what I think joy is, and a few ideas on how to create moments of joy even during hard times.
Merriam-Webster defines joy as “The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” The Greek word for joy is Chara, which describes a feeling of inner gladness, delight or rejoicing.
My reading suggests that joy is different from happiness, which comes from external things and circumstances, and can be fleeting. Lasting joy comes from a place that is deeply rooted and brings with it a sense of well-being and benevolence.
Joy can endure hardship and trials and looks to connect it with meaning and purpose.
These definitions have led me to associate joy with being aligned with one’s inner values and always striving to live one’s purpose regardless of the circumstances. The more people have a deep awareness of who they are the greater the possibility of creating moments of joy in our life.
What Stops Joyfulness?
The reason so many of us fail in our pursuit of joy is that we look for it in the material world rather than within ourselves. The external world gives and takes at will, and many things are outside of our control. What is in our control is our perspective and reaction to situations and people. Accepting what we control is one way to find more peace and contentment. Getting stuck in the tragedies of life can also bring our joyfulness to a halt. Pain is a part of life. Suffering is optional. That is not to infer that losses should be ignored. Mourning and grief pays honor to what we love and care about. But there is a risk to our long-term wellbeing if we lose the ability to move forward.
Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. It teaches us to seek out what makes our life better. Example: Depression can become chronic when one continues to focus on the pain. By putting our attention on our pain, we develop an easy neural pathway to revisit the hurt. Shifting our mindset to focus on future possibilities rather than past trauma may be a way to create a different reality.
Meditative practices like Tonglen, which means taking and sending, help remind us that we are not alone in our struggles and by offering compassion we receive some in return. Tonglen involves using breath to breathe in the pain and suffering of others and to breathe out good will, it is like a meditative prayer. This is a way to be in service and have a mindset of compassion, even when you are alone.
The Benefits of Joy
The ultimate source of happiness is within us. The benefits of seeking joy, are best stated by the Dali Lama, “We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.”
Creating moments of joy are within your reach. Make it your practice to:
- focus on living your values.
- seek to act on purpose
- show compassion through service
- know that you are not alone and everyone struggles
- learn how to shift your mindset
- be grateful for what you already have.